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Grand Rapids schools unveils “transformation plan”- includes closing 10 schools

Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio

The Grand Rapids Public School district would close 10 schools under a new “transformation plan” unveiled Monday night.

Over the past decade GRPS has lost 7,000 students; dropping it to the fifth largest district in the state. Along with the loss of students, Grand Rapids Public Schools has cut more than $100 million and closed 25 schools. But almost half its buildings are still way below capacity and the graduation rate is only 47-percent. 

“I get that this is really really hard but in order for us to move forward as a district we have no other choice,” Weatherall Neal told the school board Monday.

Weatherall Neal says the plan should help address these problems. “I beg you to make those hard choices now. Let’s stay focused on children and do what we know is right,” Weatherall Neal said.

Parents will have a number of opportunitiesto shape the plan over the next month. There’s several public hearings scheduled. Then the school board will vote on the plan December 17th.

The plan is expected to save $5 million. Weatherall Neal wants the board to reinvest half the money into schools and programs that are performing well. The other half she’d like to save.

District Spokesman John Helmholdt says GRPS’ general fund balance is around $13 million this year. It had to use $8 million from savings last school year to close a budget gap.

It is unclear how many layoffs would result from the plan. GRPS employs roughly 3,500.

Weatherall Neal started as superintendent last January after nearly a year of turmoil under former Superintendent Bernard Taylor. She says this plan is meant to stabilize the district and stop the “churn” of the past few years.

It’s lost seven thousand students, dropping it to the fifth largest k-12 district in Michigan.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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